Guinn wants agencies to change how they do budgets
Gov. Kenny Guinn has backed up his call for a different way of doing business, telling agency heads and financial officers they will no longer be presenting huge wish lists and fighting over who gets what at the Legislature.
Budget director Perry Comeaux and his staff presented the agencies with budget instructions ordering them to plan for essential services and imposing tough limits on what they can expect in new money.
The budget instructions are the rules all agencies must follow in developing and presenting their requests for funding. Comeaux said the inch-thick packet directors and fiscal managers received this past week makes it clear Guinn is serious about a changing how state priorities are set and services provided.
“The past few sessions has been a hands-off approach where we let them ask for anything they want to. The governor says that’s a waste of time,” he said. “This time, I’ll preview those enhancements. If we can’t consider it at all, then we don’t want them to even put it in their agency request.”
That, Guinn hopes, will greatly cut down on efforts by agencies to have their allies in the Legislature make an end-run on the governor’s budget and put back things he cut out.
Comeaux said Guinn is the guy making the decisions.
“Basically, he’s the guy the people elected,” said Comeaux. “They didn’t elect any of us bureaucrats and we don’t get to decide what the priorities are. This governor is actively participating in the operation of state government.”
Guinn made it clear last week he plans to set a short list of “super-priorities” for the coming session.
“Their priority may make that list, but it may not. Some agencies understand that but others don’t,” Comeaux said.
“They are not encouraged to come in with all these wild ideas that need millions in new money,” he said.
That situation, he said, resulted in budget requests two years ago that had to be cut back more than $900 million to balance the budget. And Comeaux pointed out that a large portion of that amount had to be cut from the University System budget.
He said, however, there is plenty of room for agencies to seek program enhancements – “as long as they pay for them.” So if they want more money for one thing, they have to cut it out of something else.
The idea, he said, is to get down to “essential services that we should be providing.”
Guinn has asked all state agencies to begin finding some of that extra money by objectively reviewing their own budgets. And they have to do it by May 1.
“They should take a thorough look at what they do, whether they should be doing it, how they measure what they do and how well they’re doing the job,” he said.
That, Comeaux said, is the basis for the agencies to decide how much they need and in what programs to provide basic, essential services to the people of Nevada for the coming two years.
They must budget and present separately any expansion of existing programs or new programs they feel are needed. And Guinn wants all agencies to start planning ahead instead of hitting the administration and Legislature with huge requests all at once.
“What he wants is a focused look at their base budget,” said Comeaux.
Items such as computer systems must go through the Department of Information Technology. Needs for new buildings and office space must go through the Public Works Board.
All of the numbers will be processed by a new “integrated financial system” which Comeaux said will greatly reduce the manual calculations and adjustments by both his budget staff and agency fiscal officers.
“That should free up a lot more time for our analysts to analyze these budgets,” he said.
The result, he said, will be far fewer problems by the time the budgets reach the Legislature and more time to concentrate on reducing waste and planning for the future.